Purity Rings: An Invitation for Stories

I’ve been thinking lately about my purity ring. My dad gave it to me on my thirteenth birthday, and I still have it tucked away. I have a lot of strong feelings about it, weird though that may seem. There’s a lot of my girlhood wrapped up in it, years of idealism and dreams. There’s pain in it too, and heartbreak and fear. But you know what? I don’t think I’m the only one to have strong feelings about my purity ring. And so, I’d like to start a new series. The “Purity Rings” series.

If you had a purity ring, whether you were given it by your father or bought it for yourself, I want to hear about it. How old were you when you got it? How long did you wear it? What did it mean to you? Did you take it off at some point, or wear it until marriage? What does it mean to you?

Feel free to fashion your thoughts in whatever format you like. Ideally, you should write between 500 and 1000 words, but that’s more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule. Feel free to make it analytically or emotional, bare bones or descriptive. All I need is your thoughts, your feelings, and your reflections, however they come out on paper.

Email your “Purity Rings” story to lovejoyfeminism@gmail.com with “Purity Rings” in the subject line. I’ll post them gradually as I receive them.

Oh, and just as an update on other things, the Raised Quiverfull project is finished. Click the link and you’ll be able to view all of the responses, whether in panel form or in story form. Seriously, explore! Also, I will be posting one Raised Evangelical story each week starting next week (I have over a dozen!). Lots to look forward to there!

What Courtship Was for Me
Nine-Year-Old Sluts and Masturbating Dinner Guests
Lesbian Duplex 14: An Open Thread
Nine-Year-Old Sluts and Masturbating Dinner Guests
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    Do you want pictures of said purity rings? I ask because I still have mine tucked away in my jewelry box.

    • http://Patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Sure! I still have mine in my jewelry box too…

  • Jenna

    I’ll have to see if I can still find mine.

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

    Purity rings aren’t as bad as the purity jewelry where the daughter got a lock on a chain and the father kept the key. I’m not kidding. This was a thing.

    • ArachneS

      That is… um… creepy, to say the least.

    • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

      WHAT? Oh my, that is disturbing…

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I actually saw a case where this happened, and the father gave the key to the groom as an official – and highly touted – part of the wedding ceremony. The passing of the daughter as property from her father to her husband could hardly be made more clear.

      • http://bunnystuff.wordpress.com/ Jaimie

        Words fail to describe just how creeped out I am at this moment.

      • Anonymouse

        Also, in Victorian symbology, the key is the penis and the lock is the vagina. Extra ick-factor.

      • http://bunnystuff.wordpress.com/ Jaimie

        Yes, I was thinking of the sexual connotations too. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Lol, sexual aspect here doesn’t even seem like a connotation to me–not subtext but just plain TEXT! And at a WEDDING ceremony? I’M the one who’s supposed to be some kind of hedonistic, libertine, pleasure-seeking slut with no sense of decency here, but the idea of making the bride’s vagina an explicit part of the wedding ceremony just seems unseemly to me. Of course that’s how I feel about all of this father-daughter purity stuff. My parents were hippies who talked about sex openly but if somebody had suggested to my dad that he should give me a ring to symbolize his protection of my hymen* , I think he’d have gone off to take a long, long shower and lamented the fact that it’s impossible to to scrub one’s brain in there.

        *Not that hymens really have much to do with virginity. And not that virginity is something actually, you know, exists except in the mind.

      • Christine

        Psst… don’t look into the requirements for a marriage to be valid… That being said, it’s generally just assumed, and not put up and centre at the wedding.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Yes, exactly, IT’S GENERALLY ASSUMED! And I prefer it that way! Guess I’m just a prude. :-P

      • Emily

        Libby Anne, another potential series: the wedding rituals of Christian patriarchy families. I was blown away by a sword ceremony I saw during one. The father presented the groom with a giant, historical replica sword, and transfered the protection and headship of the bride and her (future) children to the groom. The theme of “as many children as God blesses us with” also featured prominently in the ceremony. In fact, thinking about it, that’s a million dollar dissertation topic for some PhD student in anthropology…

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        “I was blown away by a sword ceremony I saw during one. The father presented the groom with a giant, historical replica sword, and transfered the protection and headship of the bride and her (future) children to the groom. ”

        Aaaaaaaand the line between Christian Patriarchy subculture and hardcore LARPers becomes ever more blurry…

  • Stephanie

    Hey Libby Anne! I enjoy reading a lot of the things you write. I find your change in how you view the world fascinating. I consider myself Christian but nowhere near fundamentalist, even though I was raised similarly to you without the homeschooling, extreme patriarchy, quiverfull stuff. Never had a purity ring, although I took a purity pledge (didn’t work out I’m afraid). Anyway, I am looking forward to reading these!

    • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

      Hey Stephanie, I don’t think not keeping your purity pledge is anything to beat yourself up about, if you are. There’s a reason Jesus said don’t make oaths – they can’t always be kept.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Statistically, purity pledges rarely “work.” I say, good for you that your purity pledge didn’t “work.” I don’t know what your experience was like but, no matter what it was, you’ve learned something from it. Learning is good and self-knowledge and experience are never bad things to take into a new relationship.

  • Elise

    Ok, here is a short funny. My 90-year-old great aunt and I were invited to dinner. The family had a trio of young musicians staying with them as they went on tour with a youth orchestra. One of these 15-year-olds had a purity ring with a diamond. My great-aunt asked her excitedly if she were engaged. She replied that it was not an engagement ring, but a purity ring symbolizing that she is giving her father her virginity for safe-keeping. My great-aunt made a disgusted gasp.

    Engaged at 15? Just fine. Virginity and fathers and making a public spectacle of it all? GROSS!

  • Jeffrey

    When I worked at a Bible camp ten years ago, we received “Purity Rings.” They were just those little O-Rings for plumbing, and they usually handed them out every week for every set of new campers. I never liked them because I thought them invasive and unnecessary, but I wore one because everyone else did.

    I had one fun thing to do with them. Pick-up lines were popular (When are they not popular?) and I would approach up to a fellow female staff member and ask her if she wanted to see my pickup line. She’d say “Yes,” and I would look her up and down, and then look at the ring. Then I’d look her up and down again, and frown at my ring. Then I’d take off the ring and throw it over my shoulder, ideally in some place where I couldn’t retrieve it. I usually received a frown, but it felt good to me to throw the ridiculous thing away.

    I know some people could wear those O-Rings all year, but I couldn’t do it, and found a way to subversively get rid of the thing in a humorous manner that let me enjoy my Bible camp experience.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    I was poking around on Wikipedia to find out more information about the program my church used for the purity ring ceremony, and I found this:

    Apparently a group sponsoring some of these ring ceremonies received federal money up until 2005. I had no idea!

  • http://www.fromtwotoone.com from two to one

    Just sent my story in! Has a funny twist to it: my purity ring became my husband’s wedding ring.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I thought about doing that too! My original plan was to melt my very feminine purity ring down and use that metal in my husband’s ring. I read through your story, and while I won’t give it away at the moment, I think one reason I, unlike you, did not end up using my purity ring for my husband’s ring was that even though that purity meant something to me, it had been given me by my parents and had been too tangled in toxic notions about sex and purity for me to salvage any of it. So instead I just kept it, tucked away.

      • Elise

        Maybe you can give it to Sally when she gets her menarche–hear me out–her body is showing her that she’s learning how to be a woman. For her, the ring can symbolise that she is growing up and starting to use her judgment in her own life. Every time she is in a hard spot, she can look down at it and know that you and your husband have confidence in her own abilities, support her, and are there for her without judgment–only love.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Heh. Um, I can’t speak for future-Sally but the idea of thinking of looking down at my hand and thinking of my parents every time I make a decision about sex doesn’t really appeal to ME, personally.

        Also the idea of being a kid, getting my first period and getting a “Congratulations, you are now nubile!” present is just…ew. I don’t care how well-meaning the message is.

  • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

    I once read a Miss Manners column in which a 16 year old girl talked about how thrilled she was to receive a purity ring. She asked Miss Manners how to convey to people that her purity ring was about her virginity, and not just some ring devoid of symbolism. Miss Manners replied that polite society is far too polite to ponder a young lady’s sexual status. So basically Miss Manners thinks purity rings are crass, although she did, of course, express this more tactfully. Just something I remembered reading this.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      That girl who wrote in could just skip the ring and wear a T-shirt that says in giant day-glo letters “THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A PENIS IN MY VAGINA!!!!!” That would be pretty unambiguous. Or perhaps she could make it her outgoing message on her voicemail? “You have reached Ashley. There has never been a penis in my vagina. Please leave a message after the beep.” Get her pilot’s license and sky-write it? Or maybe a fleet of strategically placed blimps advertising it, a la Goodyear? There has to be a way to make this whole thing more obvious and tasteless, there just HAS to be, Miss Manners!

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

        Haha yeah…I think the irony of purity rings is that they’re actually kind of indelicate. I have an image in my mind of some really patrician lady, probably played by Maggie Smith, saying something like, ‘Dear God, child! Have a sense of propriety!’.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        *pictures Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham encountering purity rings.* BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

  • http://sarahoverthemoon.com Sarah Moon

    I had a couple different purity rings growing up, and I lost them, both during pretty symbolic times in my life. I’m trying to write something about it but it’s still a painful subject to touch on. We’ll see how this goes.

  • Rae

    I never had a purity ring, although it was the “in” thing for young women in my social circles – at first, I think my parents had just decided I was not interested in sex remotely enough to make a big deal about it, and then as I got older I tried to drop a few hints that all my friends had one but I think I was too awkward, and then I had fun being the person who was like “I don’t have a purity ring, my parents never bothered and I don’t care if they do” which was borderline independent and rebellious, then in college I bought a claddagh ring as a pretty accessory and a lot of people got under the impression *that* was a purity ring. On the other hand, one of my guy friends in college actually wore a purity ring, and I at least appreciated that he didn’t have double standards in that area….

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

    I don’t know if my comments will be out of place or not on this subject. If so please delete the post.

    I always thought a purity ring was just kind of ‘weird’. Yet, to an extent I think it seems as if it could be a character building part of life in terms of the decisions they represent? Meaning, it is a way of helping a person to keep themselves until they get married provided they are educated on sex and relationships because I found too many Christians, in the past, didn’t know a whole lot about the issues of sex and how to build a relationship therefore became red faced when confronted about them. The more conservative a person is the more red faced they become.

    I educated myself on the issues of sex and as a result when I was backed into a corner about why I refused to take sexual advantage of a girl I countered every argument with a question to educate my temporary ‘tormentor’ at that time. I found it fun because I learned more and I cause that person to learn more. My goal in those moments was to teach someone something that they were probably never going to hear. Most people walked away from when they found they could not rebuttal me.

    I never had any kind of purity ring. For me, it was a mind mad up decision, for I was looking forward into my future. I have seen too many people from my past who ended up with std’s, as well as kids which they did not know about from their past as a result of their choices. I could say for myself that none of that could confront me unexpectedly today because of what my decision was when I was in my early 20′s. Today I will support those who choose to wait BUT I also caution them to not be ignorant but learn the issues of sex and the art of relationships so their life can be balanced. I hate seeing people become red faced over these topics because it should not be an embarrassing thing to deal with. The Very conservative churches tend to make it so.